Farm Ireland

Tuesday 16 January 2018

Ag students outnumber places by two to one

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

The surge in applications to agricultural colleges is continuing this year, with applications outnumbering student places by at least two to one in most colleges.

Both Teagasc and private colleges have once again been inundated with applications for agriculture, equine and horticulture courses ahead of next week's closing date.

College principals will be employing interviews, written assessments and oral assessment to assess all applicants and allocate student places.

Close to 300 students are expected to apply for just 110 places on agriculture courses at Teagasc Kildalton. Some 260 applications have already been received and a further 20-40 are expected before the June 3 deadline. More than 70 students have applied for the 38 places available on the college's equine courses but there are still places available on the horticulture course.

Kildalton principal Frank Murphy said equine students would be required to take an interview and basic horse riding assessment, including a jumping course. Agriculture students would be required to sit an interview and complete an entrance exam. The entrance exam will include basic maths to a Leaving Certificate pass level but no theoretical maths.

More than 240 students have applied for 100 places at Teagasc's Ballyhaise college, an increase of 10pc on the applications for 2010.

College principal Felix McCabe said students would also be quizzed on their ability to make use of the course. "We will be asking if they have land in their direct family, how many brothers they have, what involvement they have on the farm," he explained. "If a lad told us he had 10 cattle in his father's herd, that would push him up the rankings."

Applications to Clonakilty are also well above the colleges' 100-student capacity, according to principal John Mulhern. This follows the 40pc increase in Central Applications Office (CAO) applications for the college's 40 places on higher-level courses.

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Mountbellew College is expecting application numbers to be almost treble its 55 certificate in agriculture places this year. Some 128 applications have already been received but more are expected in the coming 10 days.

Almost 160 students have applied for 85 places at Pallaskenry, according to principal John McCarthy, while 57 students have applied for the advanced certificate in mechanisation course. This follows a 19pc surge in CAO applications to the college.

Overall, student numbers applying for CAO college places showed a 28pc surge in interest in agriculture courses. The swing towards agri-food courses was the standout positive trend in this year's applications.

While a proportion of students will have hedged their bets by applying to more than one college this year, competition for places on all agriculture courses looks set to be fierce.

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